On a recent edition of the wonderful 60-Second Science podcast, they played a short clip from a talk by 2007 Nobel Prize recipient Oliver Smithies. He was speaking to a group of students, reflecting on learning and enjoying what you do.
Here’s my osmotic pressure measurement. And I was rather proud of this method. And I published it with great delight. This paper has a record, you know: nobody ever quoted it. And nobody ever used the method again. And I didn’t use the method again. So I have to ask you, what was the point of it all? Well, the answer is really a very serious answer.
The answer is I learned to do good science. But it didn’t matter what I did when I was learning to do good science. So it doesn’t matter what you do when you’re doing a thesis, you see. But it’s very important that you enjoy it. Because if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t do a good job and you won’t learn science.
So all of this comes around to the fact that if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, ask your advisors to let you do something else. And if your advisor won’t do that, there’s another solution: change your advisor.
Excellent advise, whether you’re writing a thesis or involved in any other learning.